Plan a Hike

A hike on the Ice Age Trail can be as simple as an after-work jaunt on a suburban segment or as challenging as a once-in-a-lifetime thru-hike.

Regardless of the scope of your next Ice Age Trail trek, reading up on the following topics can help ensure your experience will be fun, safe and rewarding.

Respect Private Property

It is imperative, both for the current Ice Age Trail and its future, that hikers respect private property. Private landowners all along the Trail host segments on their property, and the Ice Age Trail would not exist without their cooperation and support. Many segments are hosted as part of a “handshake agreement” that is revocable at any time by the landowner.

  • Stay on the Ice Age Trail at all times.
  • Do not vandalize or mistreat land over which the Ice Age Trail passes.
  • If you are backpacking along the Trail, be positive you are staying in an area that’s open to primitive camping. The maps in our books indicate where this is permitted.

One irresponsible hiker can, unfortunately, cause an entire segment of the Trail to be lost. Please remember that hiking the Ice Age Trail over private property is a privilege, not a right.

Where Would You Like to Hike?

When planning a hike on the Ice Age Trail, two of the most common questions are “Where should I go?” and “What will I find when I get there?” The best way to answer those questions, and many more, is to consult the Ice Age Trail Guidebook and the Ice Age Trail Atlas.

Both books are written and published by the Ice Age Trail Alliance. All proceeds help build and maintain the Ice Age Trail. To order, visit our store.

Be sure to also check out our online Trail map. This tool provides a basic snapshot of the Ice Age Trail route and parking areas.

Another good resource to look at is our Recommend Hikes. There you’ll find popular segments across the entire Trail for both day hikes and backpacking.

Before Leaving the House

Your best hikes begin with a little research and planning:

  • Destination: If you aren’t familiar with the area where you’ll be hiking, refer to the Ice Age Trail Atlas and Ice Age Trail Guidebook to get a lay of the land. Also check our Trail Conditions page for updates on special circumstances affecting the Trail. A call to the local Ice Age Trail Alliance chapter coordinator is also highly recommended. As our chapter coordinators are volunteers with busy lives outside of the Trail, please plan to give them a day or two to get back in touch with you if you leave a message.
  • Distance: How far do you plan to hike? Distance determines what type and how much clothing, food and supplies you will need.
  • Weather: Be prepared for a variety of weather conditions. Get local forecasts can from the National Weather Service.

What to Wear

  • Clothing: Layering synthetic-fabric or thin wool clothing is a good approach to stay comfortable, especially on longer hikes where temperatures can vary over the duration of the hike.
  • Rain Gear: It’s a good idea for anything longer than a short day hike. Rain gear can get a little pricey, so consider your hiking style…for shorter hikes and scattered showers, a $10 poncho may do the job.
  • Footwear: Although most segments of the Ice Age Trail are unpaved and over uneven terrain, hiking boots are not essential. Sturdy hiking shoes with good ankle support are often the best option, as they support the foot well without the weight of a high-top boot.
  • Long pants: It can be a tough pill to swallow on a hot summer day, but long pants are recommended if you will be hiking a segment that is not through open forest. They keep your legs from getting scraped and/or itchy when walking through long grass. With pants tucked into socks and shirt tucked into pants, you’ll also be better protected against ticks and mosquitoes.

Safety

Always use common sense and take precautions when you’re on the Trail:

  • It’s best to hike with a partner.
  • Be prepared: carry a map, compass, appropriate weather gear, water, light, matches, first aid kit, signal whistle and food, even for day hikes.
  • Leave an itinerary of your trip with family or friends.
  • Stay in contact with home or friends on longer hikes. Let them know your location and when you’ve arrived home from your trip.
  • Carry a cell phone, but realize it may not work in remote sections of the Trail.
  • Avoid camping within a half-mile of road crossings.
  • Do not tell strangers where you are headed or plan to camp.
  • If you run into a suspicious person, consider moving on to another location.

Hunting Seasons

Visit our Hiking During Hunting Seasons page for a detailed guide on hiking the Ice Age Trail during the state’s hunting seasons.

Hiking with Dogs

The general guideline for hiking with dogs on the Ice Age Trail is that the dog should be leashed (8-ft maximum length) and under control at all times. In some areas, dogs are prohibited entirely; in others, they must be leashed by law. Specific regulations for each segment are listed in the Ice Age Trail Guidebook.

Invasive Species Impact

Each year IATA volunteers and partners fight invasive or non-native plant species along the Ice Age Trail corridor and throughout the state. Without these efforts, the non-native plants, animals and pathogens can displace native species, disrupt ecosystems and harm recreational activities.

Controlling invasive species is difficult and getting rid of them is often impossible. Anyone who spends time in the outdoors is a potential vector of undesirable plant material.

To minimize the introduction and spread of invasive species, hikers should:

  • Minimize disturbance by staying on the Trail and if possible stay out of heavily infested areas entirely
  • Before and after a hike on the Trail, inspect and clean clothing, footwear and gear. Make sure that your gear, especially your footwear, is clear of plant materials. Remove and discard any plant material or soil in the garbage. Use boot brushes where available, or bring your own brush to scrape off dirt.
  • Follow the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) regulations on transporting firewood.
  • Be a proactive land steward. If a new patch of invasives is discovered, please let the IATA staff know. Do not attempt to remove it on your own as much of the Trail is on private lands.

For more information visit the DNR’s Invasive Species page.